Lessons from a Legend
With the passing of Muhammed Ali, the world mourns the loss of an invincible athlete, irrepressible activist and a great human being. He challenged preconceptions and fought till the end.
There is a lot we can learn from this legend, but here are the top picks of words of wisdom:
Lesson one: Believe in yourself!
Lesson two: Don’t waste time.
Lesson three: The devil is in the details – don’t underestimate ‘little’ things.
Lesson four: There is no easy way. Success comes with hard work.
Lesson five: Be graceful, even if you have power.
And just for fun 🙂 Be fierce!
Finding motivation: the first step is always the hardest!
This week the question “Where do I start?” has been thrown at me a few times.
“You are so fit, how do you do it?” Well, you know the saying – where there is a will, there is a way!
So if you have been asking yourself (or others) this question, well done – you have find yourself some lingering will power. Now it’s time to put it in action.
When starting a new healthy lifestyle, it is very important to:
- Know why you are doing this, and:
- Understand that everybody is different.
Firstly, why do you want to change your lifestyle? To look good? To feel fitter & healthier? To overcome existing health conditions? Or to live a long, healthful life?
No matter what your reason is, make sure it is a long-term goal. It is a new lifestyle, not just a temporary fix!
Once you have found your personal long-term motive, create a vision board or write it down. Make sure that these items are in plain sight (and preferably close to your bed) – they will serve you as a reminder of what you are trying to achieve.
Why take this approach? Visualization is a powerful mental tool which can help you stay on track. It is a commonly used technique in the health & fitness industry, from professional athletes to mental health practitioners.
Once your vision is set in stone (or paper:) ), it is time to seek information and educate yourself. The internet is full of advice, from highly technical research to instagram wisdom – whatever you seek you shall find.
But this is also the cause of much confusion. And that is why you need to remember that everyone is unique. What has worked for one person, may not work for the other.
We are different in so many ways – our genes, our upbringing, our current lifestyles & resources, our likes & dislikes…
Therefore it is important not to compare yourself to others so much. This will most likely lead to either over-ambition & injury/health problem or abandonment of goals & demotivation/depression.
Here’s why it is important to talk to someone with qualifications & experience. There are many friendly folk in the gym who can guide you to the right source of advice. Even then, be cautious – ask around to find out different opinions & don’t be afraid of trial & error.
The most important thing is to find something that you enjoy and you can easily fit within your current lifestyle. And remember: making small, gradual changes is much more likely to lead to consistent progress towards your goal.
20 Ways to Beat Stress
Last week I was lucky to attend a stress management workshop by Heidi Jones, a Dubai-based integrative health & nutrition coach. Read below to find out what I have learned.
Most of us are living a busy, fast-paced life where 24 hours never seem enough. All sorts of pressures & deadlines loom over our heads, making us feel stressed out. It is important to be self-aware and to know how stress affects the body and our emotional wellbeing.
We have all heard about the fight or flight response when we are in a stressful situation – but did you know that it can cause a host of physical as well as mental symptoms? Stomach ache, indigestion, heart palpitations, jitters – these are just a few of the physical signs showing that we are stressed.
Normally, a bit of stress is good for us. Why? It helps us be more focused and do what needs to be done. Once the stressful task is complete we go back to our ‘rest & digest’ zone, where the body and mind are relaxed.
However, in today’s day & age we are more likely to be almost constantly in the ‘fight or flight’ zone as we claw through a long list of deadlines or urgent and important matters. This is certainly not good for our long-term health.
So what can you do to help yourself spend more time in the ‘rest & digest’ zone? The questionnaire below, developed by Heidi Jones, will help you assess your work-life balance by looking into which stress management strategies you use often and which ones you need to start using:
Now that you have a list of 20 very practical and easy to apply stress management strategies, you may want to think about what is stopping you from using them in your day-to-day life.
One thing we all have in common is that we all have 24 hours in the day. People are achieving amazing things in those hours – and so can you!
“You have to be very, very clear on what it is that you want. If you know what you want, then you know you need to work towards that and it doesn’t feel like a sacrifice anymore. It feels like it is part of the journey, it’s part of the process, it’s part of you growing as a person to get to where you want to be.” – Heidi Jones
We believe that we can’t do it, we don’t have time… but these are just beliefs – they are not facts.
So here you are: start by implementing practical strategies to relieve yourself of stress, but don’t forget to take the time out and ask yourself what you really want to achieve in life. Sometimes not knowing what we want to achieve is the biggest stress!
If you need more help or would like to know more about how to transform your life, go to Heidi’s blog – http://www.heidijoneshealthcoach.com – where you can get in touch with her.
If she can do it, so can you!
I have just finished watching a very inspirational documentary and couldn’t wait to share it with you!
Why am I so excited? Because this is real story about a real woman who, despite all the obstacles, reached her goal and beyond.
At 8 months pregnant, Elle decided to compete in a sports model competition after her second child’s birth. If that wasn’t hard enough, Elle decided to embark on this journey without any help (apart from her husband) – no personal trainer, no nutritionist, no nanny or house help and no gym.
That’s right! Elle had to look after her new born and toddler, take care of her ailing husband, workout and prepare her meals on her own.
Moral of the story? If you really want something, you will find the time to do it – if not you will find excuses!
You can watch the full (1-hour) documentary below:
You vs. Stress
We all know that stress is bad for us. There are countless articles regarding the damaging effects of stress on physical and mental health. It is clear that stress affects our longevity and quality of life, but what can we do to combat this public enemy #1?
First, it is important to recognise that there are many sources of stress on the body – our environment (weather, noise, pollution, chemicals and toxins, etc.), our physical activity (exercise, strain & injury), our mental and health state (emotions, thoughts, nutrition and sleep).
Therefore it can be seen that stress enters the body through multiple sources – directly through our skin, our ears and our mouth, but also indirectly through what we see, hear and think about.
At first, it may seem overwhelming to deal with this constant invasion of stress, however there are little steps we can take every day to reduce the pressure we put on ourselves.
You don’t have to quit your job, sell your house and go live in a forest to offer yourself stress relief (and anyway the financial implications of such a move will probable cause more stress than anything else!). Instead, focus on creating little routines in your day to help relieve stress.
As sleep is crucial to our mental and physical health, I would recommend starting with a bedtime ritual to help you get a good night’s sleep. Once you are used to that, you can look into your daily schedule and finding time to fit in some more relaxing activities.
So, how can we use the five senses (and gateways to stress) to create a relaxing bedtime ritual? Here are my tips:
If you are like most people and work in an office, chances are that by the end of the day your eyes are tired from looking at a screen all day. So it is important to give them a break from screen glaring and squinting (due to inappropriate lighting contrasts). Make sure your bedside lamp emits and orange-yellow light as white light suppresses the production of melatonin – your body’s sleep-inducing hormone.
Of course, you should put away all screen devices and try reading something in print instead. If reading is not your thing why not try the new trending of colouring. It has been proven that colouring has similar relaxation effects to meditation by allowing us to replace negative thoughts with positive ones and focus on the moment. Dr. Stan Rodski, a neuropsychologist who also happens to be the author of his own line of adult colouring books, conducted a study which found that colouring affects our heart rate and brainwave activity.
If you’re really not a fan of reading or colouring, another option would be to listen rather than watch.
Now, although you may have heard about meditation a lot of times, if you’re like me, mediation seems like some mystical power which only the shamans from some Nepalese mountain can master. And although meditation can take years of practice, there is an easy way to get started. There are countless YouTube videos and other audio sources which can help ease your mind through guided meditation. An alternative are podcasts – from inspirational Ted talks to educational episodes on health & fitness, there is something for everyone. I find listening to a health podcast and doing a bit of colouring simultaneously to be of great help before going to bed.
Another thing I really like to do during my bedtime routine is sprinkle my pillow with lavender oil. There are so many benefits of lavender oil, but it is most well-known for its relaxing properties. This calming scent has been proven to relax the nervous system, reduce restlessness and to protect against neurological damage. On days I have headaches I use a lavender oil mix to massage my temples and forehead which helps to ease the pain (*never apply pure essential oils directly to your skin, always use a mixing/base oil to dilute these powerful oils).
Massaging your temples, whether with lavender oil mix or not is also a great relaxation technique. Both physical and mental stress often result in tight muscles (e.g. teeth clenching can hurt your neck & jaws). Therefore, massaging your face and even ears can be of great help to release tension. Did you know that the edges of the ears have have tiny reflex points that can relax specific areas of your body?
Of course, we are not able to give ourselves full massages, however we can relax any muscle in the body by first tensing that specific muscle and then releasing it. A good way to do this is to start from your toes, focusing your mind just on this body part, squeezing it for a few minutes before completely relaxing the muscle and letting it ‘sink into the bed’. You then move upwards to your shins & calves, all the way up to your face.
Finally the last sense through which a lot of stress comes in, but can also serve as a de-stressor is our mouth. The foods we eat can cause physical stress to the body – unhealthy foods often cause inflammation in the digestive system which is perceived by our bodies as stress. But it is not only the type of foods we eat, meal timings and portions are also important.
If you are the type of person who can’t fall asleep when hungry or wakes up in the middle of the night starving, and you do not have any digestive problems, then you should consider having a bedtime meal. There are certain foods (and drinks)which help your body relax if eaten 30-60 minutes before you go to sleep. These include yogurt, milk, oats, bananas, poultry, eggs, peanuts and tuna as they all contain good amounts of tryptophan.
“Tryptophan is used by the body to make niacin, a B vitamin that is important for digestion, skin and nerves, and serotonin. Serotonin is a brain chemical that plays a large role in mood) and can help to create a feeling of well-being and relaxation.” – WebMD
Also if you enjoy tea, there are plenty of herbal infusions that can be very soothing. Chamomile, valerian, lavender and lemon balm teas are just a few you can choose from.
So here you are: 5 senses – 5 steps to your bedtime relaxation ritual. Dedicate at least 30 minutes before going to bed to have a snack, read, relax your muscles and take some deep breaths inhaling the lavender oil on your pillow. Trust me, your body will thank you!
When you need a little bit more motivation…
The Subtle Signs of Life
So it has been more than a week since I last wrote a blog post. The reason for this MIA is the usual excuse – life got in the way. Needless to say the last couple of weeks have been very stressful and busy.
But then I realised I was sweating the small stuff and missing on some important ‘signs’ (if you believe in this kind of stuff) around me.
I have been trying to change my mindset for a while now. Trying not to worry so much. To be more spontaneous and accepting of fate. However such things are easier said than done.
I always try to start the day positive, yet at the first challenge or misfortune my mind slips into negativity – anger and frustration morph into desperation and misery.
However the past week has been different. I think I may have truly began to change my mindset. Of course this process started a while back – there was no ‘game-changing’ day. Now I am finally seeing the culmination of those small actions, signs and chance discoveries.
So I noticed that over the past few days a lot of things have been screaming at me. Those ‘things’ or signs came into 2 forms: people and perceptions.
Interesting people = interesting conversations
Everybody wants to talk but few are willing to listen.
Sometimes we forget to truly pay attention to other people’s stories and often times we forget to even ask about their story and current life situation. Science has proven than talking about ourselves has a similar effect to drugs – it makes us feel good. But in our endeavour to get that dopamine hit we can easily miss out on the important life lessons others can share with us.
This week I have been blessed (either that or my ears have developed a new level of hearing abilities 🙂 ) with a few enlightening conversations that really hit home one message – everybody is fighting their own battle; just as there are people better off than you so there are people in much worse situations.
Yes, we all know there are people worse off than us, but how many of us actually think about that before we erupt in anger or fall in despair over non-life threatening situations? *Note to self: don’t sweat the small stuff, nobody died right?
Yet lessons can be learned not just from those worse off than us – a lot of people nowadays have inspiring stories of success or unexpected achievements. A girl coming back from the dead, an Irishman fluent in Russian, a boy who’s working two jobs to achieve his dream despite supporting a family, including a member who was in a hospital ICU.
We can find inspiration from many around us only if we bothered to ask and truly listened to their stories. Everyone is looking to grow and discover themselves and we can all share our experience and knowledge.
Everything happens for a reason and everything has a solution.
Just as I was starting to question (and get frustrated about) the direction in which my life was heading, a random check on social media alerted me to some interesting opportunities. After further research I was surprised to discover that two of my acquaintances were already involved in those. *Repeat: everything happens for a reason.
Read the signs
So sometimes we just need to open our eyes (and ears!) and be more aware of the things happening around us. We need to be more perceptive and inquisitive. For example, in the past days I saw a few near-misses on the roads (a common thing in Dubai). But seeing it happen so close to me really made me think. Especially after hearing the screams of a man on the side of the street who had been hit by a car moments before I drove by. *Note to self: Life is precious.
This was followed by a couple of friends sharing personal stories of very serious health problems – and I was worried about my stomach bloating! By being aware of these different realities we can adjust our mindset and be grateful for what we have. The way we perceive things can have a huge impact on our actions (and reactions).
Our thoughts can also subconsciously attract events and signs related to those thoughts. No, I’m not going to talk about The Secret and how your thoughts and the universe are intimately connected (thank you Oprah for enlightening us 🙂 ).
I did, however, encounter a few interesting coincidences. I’m currently reading a book on Australia and by default my mind tends to gravitate towards that part of the world. So when I was doing some fitness competition research I was surprised to find that some of the best in the industry here hailed from Australia (people and products).
Also a couple of conversations ended up with interesting information about Oz land (and I wasn’t the one initiating or sharing the facts!). Very interesting indeed.
So my point is – be more mindful about the things and people that surround you and also of your own thoughts and reactions. You would be surprised what you can discover!
New: Motivation Tuesdays
Six months ago I decided to learn how to do a handstand. When I shared this goal I was asked why and wasn’t I too old for that? Well better late then never! I still have a way to go before I can do these off the wall, but I am making good progress. Yes you can teach an old dog new tricks. Don’t let others tell you that you can’t achieve your goals – if you want it, you can do it!